Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Herbert explains Massa’s penalty: “He knew where Hamilton was”

2011 Indian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2011
Massa was blamed for his latest collision with Hamilton

Johnny Herbert, the drivers’ advisor to the stewards at the Indian Grand Prix, has explained why Felipe Massa was penalised for his collision with Lewis Hamilton.

Writing in his column for The National, Herbert said: “After looking at it from different camera angles and studying all the data available to us, it was clear that Massa knew where Hamilton was before he chose to turn across him.”

Herbert said Massa’s decision to ‘open the door’ for Hamilton, before taking his normal racing line for the corner, also influenced their decision:

“Massa knew where Hamilton was, he opened the door for him by moving wide, and after doing that he still swept across and did not give Hamilton room.

“That’s why the decision was made to punish him with a drive-through penalty.”

Massa disputed his penalty, saying: “I simply stayed on the ideal line, braking on the limit and staying on the part of the track that was rubbered-in. What else could I do?”

Hertbert, who made the decision with FIA stewards Gert Ennser and Vincenzo Spanno, said: “I know Massa was upset by our decision, but I believe we made the right call.”

He added Hamilton had not disputed his grid penalty for going too quickly under yellow flags during Friday’s first practice session: “He held his hands up and admitted that he had made a mistake.”

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158 comments on “Herbert explains Massa’s penalty: “He knew where Hamilton was””

  1. I think the whole penalty system has just become too scientific. The are simply too many variables involved in determining how penalties are actually applied:

    – Did driver A see driver B in his mirrors?
    – Did driver A leave driver B enough room?
    – Did driver A suffer any damage as a result of contact with driver B?
    – Did driver A go on the record on team radio claiming foul play by driver B?
    -Was Driver A more than two thirds up the inside before driver B turned in?
    -Did driver A gain an unfair advantage through passing off track despite allowing driver B back through?

    I think you get the point that the list is endless. Furthermore, the inconsistencies are further compounded by the fact that stewards vary from race to race as many of you have already mentioned.

    Like many others here, it is my opinion that these penalties are getting unduly petty in their application which simply isn’t serving the racing. And I don’t but the safety argument regarding the application of penalties either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety, but the vast, vast majority penalties are handed out in situations where safety just isn’t an issue.

    Do we all remember when Fisi took out Ralf Schumacher in the Argentine grand prix in 1997? Or when Couthard touched Hakkinen into a spin at turn two of the 1999 A1 grand prix? Those are just two examples at the top of my head that would have almost certainly been met with penalties in today’s F1 climate. I would like to see these penalties scaled back and only used where one driver is clearly in the wrong or even driving dangerously. This latest Massa/Hamilton incident should have just gone down as a racing incident. If Massa was clearly in the wrong, then how on earth is it possible for us to have hundreds and hundreds of posts debating the collision.

    My 2 cents.

    1. We can look back as recently as last season: Hamilton left Webber a bit of room up the inside of a non-overtaking corner in Singapore and Webber stuck his nose in. That wouldn’t have escaped a penalty this season because it would have been called an avoidable accident. However, I think this incident deserved a penalty because the stewards seem convinced (and I agree) that Massa knew exactly where Hamilton was and still drove into him.

      I agree with you about the prissiness of the current rules, I think drivers should never be punished for making mistakes, only for deliberately misbehaving – there are far too many penalties in F1 nowadays and the strictness of enforcement varies from race to race, so the sport leaves itself wide open to accusations of bias.

      1. Thanks for the reply Jack.

        I literally just read the Mar Webber column on the bbc page and this is what he says:

        You could argue all day about the rights and wrongs of the latest crash involving Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa but it was a 50-50 incident in my opinion.

        The corner they collided at is quite a quick one – fifth gear at about 135mph – so the brakes don’t go on much.

        It’s very difficult to pass there but Lewis got a good run off Turn Four and got down the inside of Felipe.
        Continue reading the main story

        If someone’s had an absolute howler, then fine, give them a penalty but sometimes it might be better just to say it was one of those things

        It was the age-old thing. Lewis went for it, Felipe was still going to commit to the corner, then Lewis tried to back off and couldn’t.

        F1 is getting into a bit of a road-car culture with penalties. The attitude seems to be that someone must be to blame when there is an incident.

        In this case, the stewards thought Felipe could have given Lewis a bit more room and therefore handed him a drive-through penalty.

        Yes, Felipe could have made space for Lewis but, in my view, it wasn’t clear-cut.

        The drivers have always said that they want the stewards to be consistent – and, to be fair, that’s what they are trying to be.

        If someone’s had an absolute howler, then fine, give them a penalty but sometimes it might be better just to say it was one of those things – what we call in F1 “a racing incident” – and let it go.”

        That is almost exactly my point from the post above!
        I’m glad some of the drivers also agree with this take on things.

  2. I must admit that I changed my mind several times on this.

    Instant judgement – Why was Massa turning in?
    Second look – Hamilton was too far back
    Third and final opinion – Massa at fault he knew he was there and didn’t give enough space Hamilton was further back at the point of contact due to Massa’s movements (and natural angles) and the fact that he had tried to bail out of it

    If you watch Hamiltons usual response to someone overtaking on the inside (apart from Singapore 2010) you will see he sweeps very wide to get the switchback or a better run on the next corner – which often works. That’s smart racing. He has been known to misjudge the length of the car but it’s a risk with that maneuver if you are going to sweep as close as you can.

    Massa on the other hand is almost always over defensive. I never really like the way Massa drove. He’s not aggressive enough over the average of the race but he defends in a childish manner. He usually drives a very steady average race – which is why he almost won 2008 – everyone else was making mistakes and his standard plodding drives meant that he usually got out of it without incident. He is also fairly poor in the wet (contrary to some opinion on the BBC it seems). Needless to say I think the ‘drop in form’ was merely a small loss of form which actually showed around about where his talents lie in regards to the other drivers around him.

    He is a good shotgun driver and that is all.

  3. I think massa knew what he was doing cos he was told to give Hamilton very hard time we hard from team radio in prev races, if it was not that this incident would have been avoided.

  4. This is a couple of pics of T1 at turkey(which is a similar speed and radius to T4 india) from last year when Button and Hamilton where going for it.

    You can see Hamilton is in pretty much the exact same position to Button as he was to Massa, yet Button recognises it and gives Hamilton JUST enough room at the apex so that they can both live to fight another day. In India Massa just completly aimed for the apex, and took it at normal speed (hence Ham front wheel clipping his rear). If Button chose to take the normal apex/speeds in turkey, the accident between them 2 would have been identical. The difference is, Button dosnt see ‘red’ when Hamilton is in his mirrors and also keeps his mind on the long-game.


  5. Massa has done the same thing before many many times before during the years ie turning into a corner with a competitor at the inside.
    I think the problem Massa has is a lack of spatial awareness at least compared to what is required of a Grand Prix driver. He just does not know well enough where his own car is in relation to other cars around him which seems to be the common reason for his many crashes.

    1. interesting thought @sven

      however after reading massa’s own comments on this, I am beginning to believe the problem is he ACTUALLY BELIEVES if he is slightly ahead the other guy will just back out

      I am guessing he just assumes every1 else drives like he does

  6. I think something a lot of people are not factoring in is that perhaps the race stewards also took into account the fact that LH had to pit and replace his front wing as a result of this incident. Clearly they felt that FM was at fault and had two options at hand; drove through or just a warning for FM. Perhaps due to the fact that LH had to pit as a result of the contact the stewards were compelled to give FM a drive through. Had Lewis not required a new nose its likely that FM would have only been given a warning.

    1. but massa drove right across the front of lewis…how could lewis NOT have needed a new nose?

      had they just banged wheels and both carried on it would not have even been investigated

      1. Thats my point! I think FM penalty had EVERYTHING to do with the fact that the contact resulted in damage to LH that in turn required a pit stop. Had the contact been wheel to wheel with no resulting damage like you mentioned I doubt a penalty would have been issued at all.

        1. what has what damage occurred got to do with the penalty ?

          you might as well say there shouldn’t be a penalty for unsafe release because there wasn’t a collision!

  7. When you think about it, without this incident it would of been the most boring race in the history of F1, but with it, it was barely watchable.

    1. Totally agree. But then again, Lewis would have been further ahead and maybe offered more of a race for the top positions.

  8. FerrariFanatic
    1st November 2011, 22:53

    This situation at worst is a racing incident. I agree with Ads21’s take on the situation. IMO hamilton wasn’t even alongside, maybe his tire cleared the rear wing but thats not sufficient enough to risk a move at that part of the track. If he was THAT much faster than massa im sure he couldve overtaken him anywhere else on the track. I reckon massa to some degree agrees with me and he didnt expect hamilton to try to overtake at that point in the race and turned in and hit him. Im not a big fan of massa and i want him out of the scuderia but i dont believe this was him to blame. I think he didnt expect a hamilton move and hamilton didnt expect him to cut across either. Its a royal shame to see these two drivers ruin each others races with such consistency.

  9. Amazing. The previous article was overwhelmingly anti-Massa. Then brundle’s blog gets published and suddenly it’s all “racing incident”.


    1. @Hairs I don’t think you mean the article was, I think you mean the comments were.

      1. @Keith_Collantine Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Typing on a phone in bed when falling asleep. That’s how bad my f1 fanatic addiction is.

  10. With that corner Massa could have just stayed on the inside of the track relative to the apex, or certainly to the left. That would have certainly been a better defensive move at it would have allowed him to defend into the next corner too.

    Hamilton was going to have him at some point anyway.

  11. I think the lessons we can take from last weekend are this:

    1) Stewards explaining their decisions is a good thing
    2) Not every incident is blamed on the attacking driver, which is also good

    When we play Forza online, we have the benefit in the replays of so much more information than meets the eye, including telemetry. For example, in one race I was able to determine whether a driver had deliberately swung across the pit-lane exit as I was coming out or if the difference in speed exaggerated the severity of the move. The stewards at F1 races have access to stuff like that that we don’t and never will. We can go Trulli on the situation and bring all the pictures we want to the table, but there’s always stuff we won’t know.

    I think the punishments have been far too ready in coming. Often I agree with their assessment of whom was at 55% fault, it’s just the resultant penalty that usually ticks me off and incidents are too readily labelled as penalty-worthy. But when it comes to challenging who they think was more to blame in the first place, we can only make educated guesses and will often be missing something that sadly is not shared with us later.

  12. I have to agree with Herbert’s explanination based on this was an avoidable accident.

    Firstly, knowing that both drivers were aware of the other, what did Lewis do to avoid the collision? He backed out of it. We can argue that maybe he should have backed out enough.

    Secondly, what did Massa do to avoid the situation? NOTHING. He acted as if his was the only car at the corner and it was up to Lewis to totally back out of it or face the ‘consequences’. In my mind this was a very deliberate attempt to cause an accident, maybe to better Alonso’s finish.

  13. Reviewing this and all the other Massa incidents with three of the top five drivers this season, that excludes his team mate and SV, it could be argued that he has performed the rear gunners role, with his aggresive defences, quite well.

  14. If we allow drivers to get away with what Massa did on Sunday all the time, then we will no longer see overtakes in the braking zone. Do we only want to see DRS overtakes ? If that happened I would stop watching F1 and go back to bikes.
    What worries me more than anything is Massa and Ferrari’s attitude after the race, the fact is they still don’t see what Massa did wrong which means he will keep doing it.
    Massa has been doing this type of move all year and unless the stewards do what they did on Sunday, he will just keep on doing it.
    Well done Herbert.

  15. Glad to hear Herbert making the reasons for his decision public. If anyone has not listened to the Chequered Flag race review podcast yet it’s well worth it, Ant Davidson does not sit on the fence regarding this incident.

    I think that Massa has been on the receiving end of some poor driving from Hamilton this season, as a result he’s got it into his head that as the “aggrieved party” he no longer has to make any concessions to the McLaren driver; so when Hamilton challenges him for position he’s no longer thinking about defending his line or leaving some room, he’s just thinking: “I’m ahead, it’s my racing line and **** you!”. That’s not the kind of approach which allows drivers to race against one another, I suspect that there will be fireworks if they race one another in Brazil.

    Given that this is the same Massa who is not shy of squeezing drivers off track – or bumping them off by bashing tyre against tyre (most famously Kubica, but didn’t he do the same thing to Alonso during a wet Hungaroring?), it’s pretty pathetic to see him nursing a grudge against Hamilton this year. Perhaps it’s down in part to his very poor performance in comparison to his teammate, of the top 4 teams Ferrari is the only one without a balanced line-up: Massa isn’t pulling his weight.

  16. Why would Herbert say they had access to much more data, and camera angles than us then, if that wasn’t the case?

    1. meh. that above comment has ended up miles out of place. Sorry peeps. :(

  17. Anthony Davidson has a pretty decent analysis of the incident on the BBC podcast:

    1. Thanks for the link – I think his explanation is bang on, that’s pretty much exactly how I see it.

    2. Thanks nigelb,

      I’ve just listened to Anthony Davidson’s analisis and have to say it’s spot on. Perhaps Massa should be made to listen to it !


      1. Nail on the head, and whats with massas rant after? he seems like he has some issues or something, for an f1 driver that was in the car and driven many races he has a weird view on the crash “i braked later and he wasnt there” where did he think he had gone? ” when will massa relise that no matter what corner in the world if someone is one your inside you both have to brake sufficiantly to make the corned knowing you may well be side by side, the only reason he got a bit ahead at the end of the braking zone was due to the fact he was braking and turning as if noone was there, if he thinks he can do this thene thats the end of overtaking in corners because the guy on the outside can allways barke later if he is just going to take a normal line regardless of smashing the car on the inside>

  18. I just seen the replay again. People can say Massa did not see him all they want, but these guys know when another very loud engine is right next to them. In fact Lewis was so beside him when he ‘turned’, I’m sure he could even see Lewis’s front wheels. And I call it a ‘turned’ because is wasn’t. It was a lunge, and a huge one. He moved over 2 car widths knowing full well Lewis was there.

  19. Everybody knows I usually criticize Hamilton and mock on Massa, but this time I feel serious about how childish Massa was closing the corner and provoking an unnecessary crash. If he has personal problems with Lewis I think the best he can do is to talk to him .. or to punch him if he feels desperate… but we are talking about 300kph cars and that actions was totally wrong and silly. Incredible but this time Massa was guilty and Hamilton the good guy

    1. Hamilton may have been wrong some of the time but I have never seen him do something out of spite just because he has a problem with another driver. If he makes a mistake it tends to be either impatience or just a silly misjudgment.
      Armed now with the knowledge of what Massa is capable of some here should review their past collisions in a different light.

  20. kenneth Ntulume
    2nd November 2011, 13:33

    Massa is like a person who would shoot himself, just to frame a dude he dont like.

    1. Very intelligent and well constructed insight, thanks for sharing

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